How To Recycle Plastic

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At Bring Your Own LLC, we are all about educating people on how to live a zero-waste lifestyle. That's why we are creating these informative posts, so you can better understand the importance of reducing your waste in the world!

Sometimes we still end up with plastic no matter how hard we try, because of this, it is very important that you know what to do with it.

In this post, we will explain what the numbers on the bottom of your plastic containers mean and how to properly recycle them.

What are those numbers on the bottom of my plastic containers?

Every plastic container or bottle has a recycling symbol, near or inside this symbol is a number from 1-7.

These numbers indicate many things, including toxic chemicals used in the plastic, how likely the plastic is to leach and how bio-degradable the plastic is.

When you recycle this plastic you have to go by the numbers on your container in terms of sorting and recycling.

Symbols and their meanings

Plastic #1 - PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

Plastic #1 is typically picked up by most curbside recycling programs. It is usually clear and used to make soda or water bottles. This plastic is considered to be safe by some but can still allow bacteria to grow.

When recycled, plastic #1 can be made into tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, and more.

Plastic #2 - HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)

Plastic #2  is usually opaque and picked up by most curbside recycling programs. This plastic is one of 3 considered to be safe and has a lower risk of leaching.

When recycled, plastic #2 can be made into pens, recycling containers, lumber, and more.

Plastic #3 - V or PVC (Vinyl)

Plastic #3 is used to make food wrap, plumbing pipes, and detergent bottles. It is rarely accepted by curbside recycling programs.

These plastics are linked to many health issues and contain DEHA which can be carcinogenic with long-term exposure.

When recycled, plastic #3 can be made into flooring, speed bumps, roadway gutters and more.

Plastic #4 - LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)

Plastic #4 is mostly found in squeezable bottles, food wraps, clothing, and carpet. Curbside programs don't usually pick this up. 

Plastic #4 rests among recycling symbols considered safe.

When recycled, plastic #4 can be made into compost bins, trash can liners, floor tiles and more.

Plastic #5  - PP (Polypropylene)

Plastic #5  is used to make many food and medicine containers. More curbside recycling programs are accepting it and it is considered one of the safer plastics to look for.

When recycled, plastic #5 can be made into brooms, pallets, signal lights and more.

Plastic #6 - PS (Polystyrene)

Plastic #6 is used to make styrofoam, which we all know is terrible for the environment and extremely hard to recycle. This kind of plastic also poses many health risks.

When recycled, plastic #6  can be made into egg cartons, foam packing, insulation and more.

Plastic #7 - Other, Miscellaneous

All of the plastics that don't fit in the above categories are placed in the number 7 category. This is a mix of plastics that includes polycarbonate which contains the toxic bisphenol-A (BPA). These plastics should be avoided due to containing hormone disrupters like BPA. 

Plastic #7 is found in sunglasses, iPod cases, 5-gallon water bottles and more.

When recycled, plastic #7 can be made into plastic lumber and other custom-made products.

What to do with this knowledge

First, be aware of what you are buying! Bring reusable containers and bags when shopping to avoid purchasing these harmful containers. We have some great shopping bags on our website as well as food containers and other products, that would typically come in harmful plastic containers. 

Remember Plastic #2 #4 and #5 are some of the safer plastic products to buy.

If you do end up with plastic products that need to be recycled, make sure you sign up for curbside recycling! If you don't have that option where you live, we suggest making some recycling bins in your garage or laundry room. Label them with the plastic numbers 1-7 and start sorting before going to a recycling center.

If you live in Harrisonburg, VA (where Bring Your Own LLC is located), you can take your recycles to Harrisonburg Recycling Center. They have separate labeled bins that make it very easy for recycling.

List of materials accepted at the Harrisonburg location:

  • Plastic bags
  • Plastic #1-7
  • Small Batteries
  • Aluminum Cans
  • Office Paper
  • Cardboard
  • And More!

Of course, we would hope that you are making the daily choice to live plastic-free, but when you do encounter plastic in your life, (whether you pick it up off the side of the road or purchase it) please recycle! 

Written by Anneke Lamb

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